By: Jonathan Joseph
Part of the journey of any lucid dreamer is learning to identify common dream signs and use these dream signs to spur lucidity while dreaming. Dream signs are interesting to think about because they can be different for everyone. Honing the ability to pick them out, both in dreaming and waking life, is a surefire way to increase your opportunities for dream lucidity, and enrich your dream life in the process.
What Are Dream Signs?
I’ve often heard the question: “What are dream signs, and how do I know one when I see it?” The truth is dream signs will be unique to each individual, so there is no one size fits all answer. However, In my experience dream signs usually occur within 4 themes. With these themes in mind, the process of identifying your particular dream signs can be found in the simple (and enjoyable) act of daily dream journaling. All you need to do is compare journal entries over a period of 2-3 weeks, and you will start to see recurring elements. These are your dream signs!
Here are the 4 basic dream sign themes that I’ve noticed in my lucid dreaming journey. There may be more, or there may be a better classification system out there, but this is what I’ve got.
Dream Sign Themes
Dream sign animals can present themselves as pets (past or present) or generic animal thought-forms like dolphins, eagles, or cute little capuchin monkeys. Perhaps you notice in your dream journal entries that your dreams often include a dog that you had as a child, or a cat that you currently own. In instances where people dream of pets there’s usually an added layer of absurdity involved, like pets that talk, dance, or fly.
One of my personal very distinct animal dream signs is wolves. I don’t live in a place that has any wolf-activity to speak of, but I frequently find myself observing or interacting with wolves in my dreams. In one dream I was flying above a pack of wolves on the hunt, much like the African Hunting Dog scene from Planet Earth I. In another dream I found a lost wolf, and was trying to return it to its pack. There have been many more. Now, when I encounter wolves or images of wolves I automatically do a few reality checks. Every so often I realize I’m dreaming!
2. Family Members and Old Friends
Dream characters can appear as anyone, but our subconscious seems to like to generate dream characters based on people that we know or have known at some point in our life. Some of the people that leave the largest, most vivid impressions on our subconscious mind are close friends, old flames, and family members. Where these dream characters can be useful to track dream signs and create lucidity are in instances where we no longer interact with a well-known person on a daily basis; yet, they keep showing up in dreams. This can be your childhood friend or best friend through high school or college. You may still talk to them, but perhaps you now live in different parts of the world and rarely see each other. The same goes for family members. If you’ve moved away from home to go to college or take a job opportunity, you might not see your parents or siblings unless you’re home for special occasions. But when you notice that these people keep showing up as characters, you’ve got yourself a dream sign!
As an example from my own life, I no longer live in the same city as my brother. We haven’t for some time. He and I grew up together and were (still are) very close, though now we only see each other a couple of times a year. When I started keeping a dream journal I noticed that the dude was showing up every 4 or 5 dream entries. He was never doing anything predictable, but the fact that my I was interacting with my “brother” so frequently stood out as a classic dream sign. Anytime I see my brother now I, of course, do a reality check. Usually, I’m dreaming, but this does make for an excess fo reality checking around the holidays.
The third general dream sign category I’ve noticed has to do with repeatedly finding yourself in very specific locations. This one is a little tricker to pin down since many recurring locations that you find yourself in dreams tend to be places that you’re very familiar with in waking life. Examples include schools (former or current), workplaces (former or current), or homes (former or current). If you’re lucky you might be able to notice a recurring location in your dream journal that’s a place you know well, but no longer frequent; like a childhood home or one of your old schools.
To be honest I’ve never been able to successfully use a location-based dream sign to induce lucidity. I do often have dreams that take place in my home, but the location is never what triggers my reality checks. Though I have heard stories from people for which location triggers are a cornerstone of there lucid dreaming practice. Especially those who do lots of dreamscape-intention work.
4. The Captain Planet Group - Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water
The final dream sign theme I’m familiar with is all about the universal elements. Earth, wind, fire, and water. Just like in Captain Planet! (Heart is in there too somewhere).
You may recognize a pattern in your dream journal entries that center around one or more of these elements. Fire and water are the most common, probably because they are the most visceral and tangible, but the others appear too.
For me it’s water. I’ve had many dreams where water plays a major and strange role in the scene and often prompts reality checks and lucidity. As an example, I was once in a dream that was taking place in an all-glass apartment high-rise. This wasn’t a building that I’d ever encountered before. The entire building was one big glass house, all of the walls were completely transparent and I could observe the residents going about their daily lives. Of course, my dream-logic saw nothing wrong with this. I entered an elevator in the building, and instead of the glass elevator car ascending, the floor in the elevator disappeared and a geyser of water came rushing up and propelled me to the level I wanted to go to. Knowing that water is a dream sign for me, this caught my attention. I performed reality checks and became lucid.
Find Your Dream Signs
If you haven’t started keeping a dream journal, start one tonight. You can record your dreams on anything. I recommend our dream journal, but anything will do. Read your entries each week and hunt for your dream signs. It’s really amazing how they jump out to you once you start keeping track. Then, incorporate dream sign triggered reality checks into your reality check routine. And most importantly, have fun! Lucid dreaming is not supposed to be stressful or frustrating. It’s a journey. Enjoy it.